NBC’s new comedy series You, Me and the Apocalypse will premiere on January 28, 2016 at 8pm ET/PT with an ensemble cast that includes Rob Lowe (The Grinder), Jenna Fischer (The Office), Megan Mullally (Parks and Rec), and Mathew Baynton. The series kicks off with the reveal that there’s just 30 days left before a comet crashes into Earth and wipes out mankind. Chaos ensues, of course, and the show’s oddball collection of main characters set out to put their lives in order before the world as they know it ceases to exist.
In support of the show’s premiere, Rob Lowe joined writer/executive producer Iain Hollands in a conference call to talk about the hilarious new series which features Lowe as foul-mouthed, straight-talking priest who investigates miracles.
Rob Lowe and Iain Hollands Interview:
Do you think our world leaders would be honest and tell us the world is about to end? Is this sort of an advertisement for not telling us what’s going on because of how people would react?
Rob Lowe: “I always thought – and Iain probably can give the real answer since he wrote it – but I always thought they absolutely kept people in the dark in the world of the show. And, probably for a long time they knew it was coming. And now when it got to 30 days out, they were like, ‘You know what? At some point we have to let them know.’
I bet you they knew the world was ending for a lot longer than 30 days. But if this is any indication, I think ignorance is probably bliss.”
Iain Hollands: “I agree with Rob. And on a personal note, I would far rather not know then know.”
With 30 days left, what would be on your bucket list?
Rob Lowe: “I spent a good amount of time thinking about that during the show. And while there may be a couple of things you know that you’d consider – I’ve never been to the Rain Forests or whatever – when really faced with it, I would want to do exactly what I’m doing which would be work hard, be with my family, and live the life I’m living. And it actually makes me feel really good and satisfied about my life. I’m blessed. You know, it’s all good because I don’t feel like there’s a lot of stuff out there that I would feel like I missed out on if it was all coming to an end.”
How did this project come about for you?
Rob Lowe: “It was sent to me and the minute I read the first Father Jude scene, I knew I was in. There aren’t many scripts that grab you like this because Iain did such a great job in terms of tone of it being very, very dramatic and very, very irreverent and witty all at the same time. The character of Father Jude in particular for me was a standout and certainly nothing like anything I’d ever played before.”
Father Jude is very flawed and has his doubts about things. As an actor, did you have to find a different sort of headspace to play this character? What did you do to get ready for the role?
Rob Lowe: “Well, it was a great excuse to do something that I’ve been putting off forever which was really, really, really spend some time reading the Bible cover to cover. You know, I’ve read bits and pieces of it over the course of my life but I never really sat down and taken it all in in a sort of scholarly way. So, that was great, a great opportunity to do that.
And in terms of playing a priest, for me, it was like there are certain archetypes that an actor should play before they move on. Cop, check. Cowboy, check. President, check. Priest, check. So I’m working my way down the list now.”
It’s very rare that an actor gets the chance to have two major roles in two big series at the same time. How do you juggle the time between this series and The Grinder? What’s it like to have both of those going at the same time?
Rob Lowe: “It is really exciting. Two completely different characters in two completely different types of shows on two networks at the same time is really, for me, sort of an actor’s dream. I would travel back and forth. I’d do three weeks in Europe on You, Me and the Apocalypse and then I would fly back here and work on The Grinder. Not only to be doing them both at the same time was a challenge, but also really fun. And then we finished Apocalypse in a time where I could then really do the meat of The Grinder which I’m still doing today…I’m actually on the set. I’m on the set dressed as a Mexican busboy as we speak. Don’t ask why The Grinder would be a Mexican busboy. You will find out.”
You’ve created such an incredible batch of colorful characters. Is there one in particular that you really enjoy writing for? And, how do you balance them all?
Iain Hollands: “Yes, it’s a show with a lot of characters and we spend an awful lot of time trying to structure it in a way which allowed everyone to have some fun with their character. I don’t think I have one in particular. I think it depends on what mood you’re in. Like if you’re in a foul mood, it’s fun to write Leanne. If you’re in a kind of pessimistic mood, it’s often better to write some of the British characters. So, I don’t have one in particular but writing Father Jude was certainly a lot of fun. On the surface, yes, okay, he swears and he smokes and everything, but what was really interesting was there’s real depth to him. You know, you scratch the surface and he’s a man that really cares and who has the real courage to take on hypocrisy. And, okay, he does it in a really reverent way.”
And thanks for writing an apocalyptic series that doesn’t have zombies.
Iain Hollands: [Laughing] “Yes. Well, you know that’s series two. No, I’m joking. I’m joking.”
Is it easy to write for both British and American audiences?
Iain Hollands: “Yes. I mean, I don’t think you consciously set out to do that. The only thing you can really do is write something that you’d enjoy watching. I mean I think the fact is now that we watch so much TV over here from America, it’s such a great you know period – there’s so many great shows around. But you kind of pick it up almost by osmosis. So, from that point of view, it wasn’t difficult. It’s like when you’re sitting down and reading through the scripts with American actors. You can tell where you’ve gone wrong with the words they wouldn’t use or intonation that they wouldn’t do. But, generally speaking, I think that British and American audiences have more similarities than they have differences.”
With the show kicking off 30 days before the comet collides with Earth, if you get more than one season how is that timeline going to work?
Iain Hollands: “I’m trying to think how to answer that without giving anything away. There’s definitely a possibility for it to return and there’s a plan for that to happen. It’s difficult for me to answer your question without a massive spoiler alert. So, just say that the end of the final episode isn’t necessarily the end.”
Rob, Father Jude is the devil’s advocate. What kind of scenarios are we going to see you play that aspect of the character in?
Rob Lowe: “Well, as the world unravels, you know the church teaches that would be not only the time for the savior to return but also the time for the antichrist to return – if it is indeed the end of the world. And when we realize it is the end of the world, you need the devil’s advocate to sort out and find the antichrist, the real one or the real savior. So, he’s a busy man. And I think up until the show opens with the announcement of the media, I think the job of devil’s advocate was probably not as exciting as it sounds. But the minute the apocalypse is on it, you know all bets are off.”
Megan Mullally was on Parks and Rec with you, but she looks completely different in You, Me and the Apocalypse. What did you think of her make-over?
Rob Lowe: “I didn’t recognize her and I’ve known Megan since 1984. You know, she’s a chameleon. She’s an amazing actress. I mean, I think that’s no surprise. Everybody knows what a stunning actress she is, and when she was on Will & Grace people thought that’s who she was. Literally, they thought that was. And then when she was on Parks and Rec as Tammy…you know, she just inhabits those characters and this is no different. But, I think even Megan Mullally fans when they see her in this at first probably won’t even realize it’s her.”
Iain Hollands: “I mean, she was amazing. She was so brave. She was the one that wanted to push it further and further and further. I think when you first offer a part like that to an actress, you’re always kind of worried that they’re going to want to look amazing. And she was the one who was like, ‘No. No. No, I want the teeth. I want the hair. I want the full works.’ I think that was a really bold step for her to make.”
Can you talk a little bit about Jenna Fischer’s character?
Iain Hollands: “So, Jenna Fischer plays Rhonda who has been wrongly accused of a crime and in prison. She’s kind of like a mild-mannered librarian, completely unable to deal with life in prison. And then kind of weirdly luckily for her, the apocalypse is coming. There’s this huge prison break which she manages to get away, which is fantastic news. But, unfortunately, she’s [encumbered] with Leanne, Megan Mullally’s character, who’s the kind of person that she would in normal life cross the road to avoid. Their story is the story of two women desperately trying to get across America to be with their families before the end of the world.”
If the end of the world is coming, how do you want to be remembered?
Rob Lowe: “I would like to be thought of as a father first. My two sons are amazing young men. I’m very proud of them. One of them is on The Grinder now as a recurring actor as he’s getting a 4.0 at Stanford. My other is graduating Duke and going to law school, and they’re great human beings. That’s way more important than anything I’ve ever done in my career. And then I just think that different people have different connections to me. Some are recent; some go back 30 years. I think it would be an incredible legacy to be one of those people that has been in a relationship with an audience their entire lifetime.”
Iain, when did this idea come to you?
Iain Hollands: “We first pitched it about 5 years ago. I wanted to write a show about the apocalypse, but where the apocalypse was weirdly the best thing that could have ever happened to all these characters. So, you know when you first meet them, they’re all trapped in some ways by their kind of everyday worries. And then, weirdly, the knowledge that the world’s ending allows them to free themselves from the things that have been holding them back and just concentrate on what really matters. That was kind of my starting point. It’s a British show so we had to get a British network on board first, and then NBC came on board later. It took quite a while to get everything together.”
The You, Me and the Apocalypse Plot:
When the news is announced that a comet is on an unavoidable collision course with Earth, the most hilarious and unexpected chain of events imaginable is set in motion. Against a backdrop of apocalyptic chaos, an eclectic group of seemingly unconnected characters around the world begin to intersect in the most unexpected ways, resulting in a nonstop mix of action, romance and wit.
The story follows an unusual assortment of mismatched characters, each coping with the impending end of the world in his or her own bizarre way. Perhaps the most complex is Father Jude (Lowe), a rebellious and foul-mouthed priest who is tasked with being the “devil’s advocate” with the aid of his new timid assistant, Sister Celine Leonti (Gaia Scodellaro). Rhonda (Jenna Fischer), a mild-mannered librarian, finds herself dangerously out of her depth when she is sent to a maximum security prison for a crime she did not commit. She unwillingly befriends Leanne (Megan Mullally), an unhinged white supremacist who takes a deeply reluctant Rhonda under her wing. Morally dubious, but intensely loyal, Leanne is a woman uniquely suited to surviving the end times and will prove herself to be exactly the sidekick Rhonda needs.
Then there is Jamie (Mathew Baynton), the humble bank manager from Slough who is hopelessly stuck in a rut and still in mourning over the mysterious disappearance of his wife seven years ago. Spurred into action as a result of the impending apocalypse, he embarks on a perilous quest to find his loved one.
There are 34 days until the comet collides with Earth and some of these misfits are destined to make it to a bunker deep beneath the English suburbs of Slough. As a result, they will become the incredibly unlikely, and totally unsuitable, future of mankind. Wouldn’t that be a disaster!